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Dealing With Milia

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 29 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Milia Cysts Genitals Treatment Cosmetic

If you have tiny white spots on your face, especially around the eye area, don’t despair. These are simply milia, little cysts that may appear unsightly but are completely harmless.

Milia are incredibly common, and they can appear in virtually everyone, from tiny babies to adults. Primary milia, in fact, are incredibly common in small babies, and while some parents seem them as a cause for concern, they are benign.

In children, milia usually clear up on their own, often within a number of weeks. In adults, milia either go away independently or can be removed by a physician or aesthetician, depending on where they are located.

What Are Milia?

Milia are tiny white spots, which often appear around the eyes and on the eyelids. Sometimes, however, they appear on different parts of the body, such as the genitals, and can be confused with genital warts.

Often characterised as cysts, milia are filled with a protein called keratin, and sometimes appear yellow in colour. They are indiscriminate in who they affect, with sex and race unimportant, although age can play a big role (see below).

Milia are completely harmless and most people want to get rid of them only because of their cosmetic appearance, not because of their potential damage to health.

Why We Get Milia

It is unclear why some people get milia and some people don’t, although there are certain factors which can make people more predisposed to getting them.

In newborns, young babies, children and adults alike, milia are caused when dead skin becomes trapped near the skin’s surface, causing a tiny bump. Because the oil glands on your little one’s face are still developing, it is easier for the sweat glands or hair follicles to clog.

In older children and adults, milia are caused by the same problem. But older people are less likely to get them, as their oil glands are more developed. Regular exfoliation can make it harder for milia to develop.

Treatment of Milia

In newborns and young children, milia will disappear on their own. No treatment is warranted and attempting treatment, such as picking at the spots, can actually worsen the condition.

With adults, however, treatment is often necessary – for cosmetic reasons alone - because milia may take years to clear up on their own. In some cases, they can become enlarged and become quite noticeable, causing distress and concern.

The best at-home treatment is to stem your face, then gently exfoliate. Wait a few days and repeat, and hopefully the milia will be gone. If not, you may want to see your GP, who may prescribe:

  • Removal of the cyst with a sterile lancet or scalpel. Aestheticians and beauticians will normally not attempt this if the cyst is near the eye area, as it can be risky.
  • Topical retinoid creams, to attack milia at the source.
  • Microdermabrasion or a fruit acid peel to remove the top layer of your skin.
Milia are unsightly yet harmless white spots that often appear on the face. Regular exfoliation and drinking plenty of water can help keep these benign cysts at bay.

Newborn babies and small children often experience the appearance of milia on their faces, especially around the eye and cheek areas. This is no cause for concern, and is actually very common. No treatment for babies is necessary.

Be careful if you attempt to remove milia yourself. Improper extraction can result in permanent scarring, so it’s better to visit your GP or dermatologist and have it done right the first time.

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